UK & World News
Conservative MPs Refuse To Back Maria Miller
Conservative MPs in key marginal seats have failed to give their backing to beleaguered Culture Secretary Maria Miller.
When Sky News asked should Mr Cameron sack Maria Miller, two out of 39 MPs contacted said yes and only one said no. The rest of the 16 who responded declined to comment.
The chairmen of the respective local Conservative Party branches were also contacted, with six, three times the number of MPs saying she should be fired, two saying she should keep her job and seven refusing to comment.
Prime Minister David Cameron has given his support to the embattled culture secretary, but is likely to come under attack at the last Prime Minister's Questions before Easter and could be confronted directly by her critics when he appears before the backbench MPs' 1922 Committee.
One of the MPs contacted by Sky News, who did not want to be named, said: "It's affecting us (politicians) and gives the impression of MPs being arrogant and out of touch and all of us are trying our best to rebuild that trust.
"It's not just the party it's affecting, it's politics giving the impression that MPs are out of touch again. Constituents say constantly: 'If I had done this, I would be in prison'.
"On a personal level I like her. She's very competent and personable but unfortunately it's about protection. In the eyes of the public, politicians are about as low as they can get."
Opinion polls make bleak reading for the culture secretary and the Prime Minister. A poll by YouGov suggests 63% of supporters from all parties think Miller should resign with only 9% believing she should stay.
And when Tory supporters were asked, 61% wanted her to go and only 13% said she should stay.
In her own constituency, Basingstoke, we found hostility towards the MP despite an apology in the local paper in which she admitted she had let her constituents down.
"The last 16 months have been difficult," she wrote in her weekly column.
"As you know, I have been working hard for Basingstoke and also doing my job as a Cabinet minister.
"During this time, I have been subject to an intense parliamentary inquiry looking at extensive personal details of my family life, as a result of allegations made by a Labour MP."
She added: "I have unreservedly apologised for the way I handled and approached the inquiry. And I am pleased that the committee has fully dismissed all of the allegations made against me.
"Separately, I have already apologised and repaid an over-claim of my expenses, having myself drawn the committee's attention to the matter immediately I was aware of it.
"I have always sought to do the best job that I can in representing the people of Basingstoke in Westminster. I am devastated that this has happened, and that I have let you down. I can only hope that over time the focus will once again be on Basingstoke."
At Westminster, a bid to win support for her among Tory MPs launched by her parliamentary private secretary appeared to backfire.
Mary Macleod texted colleagues asking them to speak up in her boss's favour, before touring broadcast studios, but the text was leaked and ridiculed by critics.
Asked by Sky News whether she believed newspapers were focusing on Mrs Miller because of her involvement in the response to the public inquiry into the practices of the British press, Ms Macleod said: "I think it's Leveson and probably equal marriage as well.
"In some of the newspapers it has been like a witch hunt where they don't like the work that Maria has done on Leveson and gay marriage," she told Sky News.
"Therefore what they are trying to do is to find a way to get her out of the job."
Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith expressed surprise that Mrs Miller was still in her job.
"It would be the Prime Minister's decision who he surrounds himself with. I am surprised that Maria Miller hasn't stepped down," he said.
"This is a decision for her to make or it is a decision for David Cameron to make."
While fellow Tory MP Philip Davies said the continuing row over Mrs Miller was "extremely damaging" for the Conservative Party and needed to be resolved as soon as possible.
"Whether she resigns is a matter for her but obviously the whole thing is extremely damaging for the Conservative Party, it's damaging for Parliament as a whole and politicians - we all get tarnished by the same brush," he said.
"It's damaging for the Government, for the Prime Minister. The sooner the matter is resolved, the better."